Airport buildings are massive construction and new research has found that these swaths of empty rooftops can be put to use. According to the study, Australia’s government-owned airports are ideal hosts for large-scale solar installations. If solar panels are placed on the roofs of the airport buildings, they could produce enough electricity to power 1, 36, 000 homes. This could be an efficient step towards net-zero emissions. In the study conducted at RMIT University, Melbourne, the researchers compared electricity generated by residential solar panels in an Australian city to the potential green energy production of 21 airports in that country.
Published in The Journal of Building Engineering, researchers scanned satellite images of 17,000 residential solar panels in the town of Bendigo in southern Australia and calculated that if airports are covered with large-scale solar panels, they would be able to produce 10 times more electricity than 17,000 residential panels. They would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 151.6 kilotons a year which is nearly equal to pulling 71, 000 passenger cars off the road.
Perth Airport alone would generate twice as much as Bendigo since it is very sunny and has lots of big buildings.
This analysis shows how massively effective it would be if the government and researchers focus on deriving energy from renewable sources.
The researchers also scanned satellite images of the airports for open roof space, where solar panels can best avoid shadows and found a total of 2.61 square kilometres, or one square mile, of usable area.
While previous studies have deemed airports as great solar generators, the RMIT research goes further by precisely modelling the use of large-scale systems.
A geospatial scientist in RMIT’s School of Science Chayn Sun hopes that the result of this study will guide the energy policy and future researches will focus on how to deploy solar panels on large buildings.